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Archive for the ‘Graphic Novel Reviews’ Category

X is for X-Factor

Posted by Comics On March - 2 - 2011

The Alpha Review

By Andrew Uys

I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.

X is for X-Factor Vol. 1: The Longest Night
Peter David (w), Ryan Sook and Dennis Calero (a). Marvel Comics, 2007.

The third”volume” of X-Factor, this series has a much darker, noir edge to both the storylines and the art style than the first two. Spinning directly out of the events of House of M and Decimation, the comic focuses on Jamie Madrox (Multiple Man) re-establishing the team as a private investigation agency. Returning members include Guido (Strong Man), and Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane). New additions to the roster are M (Monet), Siryn, a recently de-powered Rictor, and the enigmatic Layla Miller. And while the team’s primary focus is discovering the cause of the Decimation, the title’s more gritty, street-view perspective, makes this series a truly different read from other X-comics. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Denise Liu

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, Vol.1:
Pterror over Paris & The Eiffel Tower Demon

Jacques Tardi (w+a), Fantagraphics, 2010 English translation.

Originally published as Adele et la Bete, and Le Demon de la Tour (1976, Sud-Orient).

Read if you like: mystery, adventure epics, dinosaurs, French fiction, anti-heroes, comparing the book to the movie, carriages careening off bridges.

It’s said that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I guess we all need to be reminded that ugly people also have worth, feelings, a soul yadda yadda, but the relation just doesn’t stick for me. As an ugly person, I am offended that anyone would even presume that I have a soul. Quit looking for my redeeming qualities!

Sincerely now, the quality of a book’s cover design is absolutely crucial to piquing my interest while I’m browsing for the next read. Is anyone else here a sucker for Chip Kidd’s work? He had nothing to do with this book but, it seems that from the other reviews I’ve read, one look at this cover might tip you off as to whether or not you’ll like the Adele Blanc-Sec stories. It’s an 18th-century French woman with a pistol taking on a charging pterodactyl, for crying out loud — either you’re already appreciating the parody of adventure comics, or you’re going home… or back to the uggies’ corner (totally not judging). Read the rest of this entry »

Brecht Evens’ Night Animals Reviewed

Posted by Comics On February - 25 - 2011

Night Animals
Brecht Evens (w + a). Top Shelf

By Georgia Webber

It’s difficult to review something that you love. The constant worry is that your gushing and incessant use of the words “brilliance,” “genius,” and “orgasmic” will make the reader think that someone is paying you for your writing—and we can’t have people thinking that writers get paid. Especially not when they’re reviewing books released by fat-cat publishing houses with an anti-consumer agenda and the pocket book to pay for it. Please. Is there nothing sacred?

Well, actually, there is. It’s art. And not just art of any kind—it’s good art.*

That feeling you get when you see something that completely speaks to you, works that grab you by the heartstrings and say “you’re alive!”—priceless. And by priceless, I mean that it transcends our fictitious game of hot potato, passing around money like it would scald us if we kept it for too long, not that it shouldn’t be paid for; there’s a difference.

So good art is for each of us to define. Who can tell you which books grabbed your heartstrings and which tried to grope your bra straps but you? Why should you take my advice? Read the rest of this entry »

By Denise Liu

Reid Fleming: World’s Toughest Milkman, vol. 1
David Boswell (w+a). IDW, 2010.

Read if you like: slapstick, Comix, complete obscenity, local authors, anti-heroes

As a retail industry worker, I have, at least once a day, the fanciful wish to act like an utter asshole and get away with it. Disposing of — not dispensing — pleasantries. Saying and doing exactly what’s on your mind, employment be damned. The incredible torment that Reid Fleming doles out makes him my hero. He is a jerk that makes his own trouble and yet always beats the odds. I think that it is precisely the recurring improbabilities of Reid’s world that creates an astonishing and delightfully violent atmosphere, where no one gets (permanently) hurt and we do the same song-and-dance only a little differently each time.

The Jist: A hell-bent, chain-smoking alcoholic milkman with superhuman strength terrorizes everyone on his route. Dumping milk into a customer’s live fish tank, or crashing his truck almost constantly is the least he can do to give his supervisor, Mr. Crabbe, an aneurism. Both bully and hero (depending on the colour of your collar), Reid Fleming is a most peculiar and endearing jack-ass. Volume One is a collection of several individual books and strips originally published since 1978 (Deep Sea Comics, Eclipse, Dark Horse), including full-colour covers from each. Remember when dialogue text was hand-written neatly? Yeah. Read the rest of this entry »

W is for The Wednesday Conspiracy

Posted by Comics On January - 24 - 2011

The Alpha Review

By Andrew Uys

I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.

W is for The Wednesday Conspiracy
Written and Illustrated by Sergio Bleda. Dark Horse, 2010

Originally published in Europe by Strip Art Features in 2005, this TPB is the first of the three volumes to be published in North America. A gripping, edgy, dark story, with sharp and angular art, I especially enjoyed the depth and complexity that Sergio brought to his characters. It makes their numerous and gruesome deaths have that much more impact. And in this story, no one is “safe” in the traditional manner that causes comic readers to never really worry (or believe) that the protagonists will actually succumb to their peril and perish. Read the rest of this entry »

V is for Villains United

Posted by Comics On January - 12 - 2011

The Alpha Review

By Andrew Uys

I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.

V is for Villains United
Writen by Gail Simone
Art by Dale Eaglesham
DC Comics, 2005

Part of the Prelude to Infinite Crisis, which also included OMAC, Day of Vengeance, and The Rann-Thanagar War, this mini-series was the best read — both in terms of storytelling and art.  Written by Gail Simone, of Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman acclaim, and illustrated by Dale Eaglesham, whose works include The Justice Society of America and Steve Rogers: Super Soldier, the Villains United TPB has an amazing blend of edginess, humour, action and empathy – and this last quality is especially remarkable as the protagonists are a number of DC’s ‘D’ list villains.  And due to this title’s success, Gail Simone has continued the storyline in the monthly comic The Secret Six. Read the rest of this entry »

MONDOcomics Readers’ Advisory #5: Comtesse

Posted by Miles On December - 22 - 2010

By Denise Liu

Comtesse
Aude Picault (w + a), Les Requins Marteaux, 2010.

Read if you like: period costume, wordless graphic novels, erotic fiction, French fiction.

What is it exactly about porn that makes it seem repulsive? Is it necessarily vulgar and is it always misogynistic? Okay, these might appear to be some really stupid questions but bear with me, MONDO readers – I know that at least half of you are just as degenerate as myself (and that it’s safe to presume that most of our staff have stashes high enough to become another nightstand, amirite?)

Such questions can be very polarizing, in the way that for some personalities the answer is a clear-cut “heck yeah!” or a definite “heck no!” For the sake of our discussion, let’s begin by loosely defining porn (print format) as any literature that graphically or textually concentrates on the activity of erotic, sexual acts to affect arousal. Yes, that is a pretty broad description but I’d like to think that 1) there are a lot of works out there that could qualify as softcore, despite not being marketed or intended as such, and 2) if writing Peanuts fanfic makes you happy in freaky ways, then so be it. In writing this review (I’ll get to the book eventually, I swear) a few questions had to be addressed, but at the centre of them all was: why does it feel as though I’ve been dared to write a piece about porn? It’s just another graphic novel, right? Read the rest of this entry »

Reader’s Advisory #4: Mirror Mind

Posted by Comics On November - 18 - 2010

By Denise Lui

Mirror Mind: Growing up Dyslexic
Tory Woollcott (w + a), self published/ Maybe Mumkin, 2009.

Read if you like: autobiography, local authors, childhood reminiscing, learning, Muppets, teen fiction

The “graphic novel memoir” is a flooded genre with works from some of the greatest cartoonists of all time like of R. Crumb, Julie Doucet, Chester Brown or Seth. The tradition is steeped in neurosis, some misogyny and often-brutal personal truths. Here, Tory Woollcott’s approach is just as honest, lovable and heart-breaking at times but, Mirror Mind is refreshingly far from a self-loathing story.

The Jist: Tory quite literally illustrates the challenges of growing up with dyslexia (in Toronto) as seen through her own eyes, from first noticing that she was a little different from the other kids, to being misunderstood by educators and taunted by peers, to finally being assessed and receiving an effective education on her own terms. The on-going narration by adult Tory is quite matter-of-fact in tone and never heavy-handed. Plentiful and nerdy late-80s pop culture references plus adorable kid personalities really make the story a delight to read (think Persepolis). The package is completed with an index of informational resources on dyslexia and other learning disabilities.1 Read the rest of this entry »

MONDOComics’ Reader’s Advisory #3: The Museum Vaults

Posted by Comics On October - 14 - 2010

By Denise Liu

The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert
Marc-Antoine Mathieu (w + a). NBM, 2007 translation.

Read if you like: irony, Absurdism, secret history, art history/theory, neurotic artist types

A majestic glass pyramid. Halls of gilded frames. Creepy pink-eyed albino monks. What do all of these things have in common? Yes, The Louvre Museum, the very same that has co-published a series of four stand-alone graphic novels. Why? Who cares. The Museum Vaults is an awesome read.

The Jist: An art assessor and his hunch-backed assistant are hired to appraise the gigantic collection of The Musee du Revolu (an anagram of its forgotten name, The Louvre). Together, Monsieur Eudeus Volumer and Leonard spend a lifetime touring its bottomless ancient catacombs, each room containing a sort of Willy Wonkian affair of specialized art preservation tasks. These journal entries are the objective observations of a ludicrous machine, and tend to read more like the travel diary of a bizarre dream.

Monsieur Volumer is part arts critic and part explorer. Apart from aging, both he and Leonard are pretty static characters but are given loads of personality through Mathieu’s deft drawings. They guide readers to the true shining personality and star of this story, The Musee du Revolu. Read the rest of this entry »

MONDOcomics’ Reader’s Advisory #2: Dororo

Posted by Comics On September - 8 - 2010

Before Edward Scissorhands and Scott Pilgrim, there was…

Dororo
Osamu Tezuka (w+a).Vertical, 2008. Three meaty volumes.

By Denise Liu

Read if you like: adventure epics, supernatural baddies, feudal Japan, gore, comparing the book to the movie, teen fiction, Eisner Award winners.

If you’ve ever been told to “respect your elders,” chances are that it came from the wrinkly mouth of someone older than thou. Such a statement should actually be followed by a really good reason, maybe “—because I built the emm-effing subway car you’re riding in” or “—because I invented time traveling and you won’t even believe how OLD I am. Would you like to see my Tardis?” In short, respect is given to those who deserve it and not just because you’re too damn stubborn to die.

Enter: Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), dubbed the godfather of manga. It’s probably safe to say that his most recognizable work amongst North America audiences is Astro Boy but in recent years, quite a few English translations have appeared from Vertical including the highly acclaimed Buddha series and Apollo’s Song. These titles are not quite the clean robot fun of Saturday morning cartoons; for Dororo expect a healthy dose of gore, nudity, sexual themes, gender politics and political references. For a manga written in the 1960’s, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Read the rest of this entry »

MONDOcomics’: Reader’s Advisory #1

Posted by Comics On August - 15 - 2010

Losers always win (our hearts)

By Denise Liu

Five graphic novels to remind you about the booger hanging out of your nose

Hello there readers of the MONDOverse! Welcome to the first instalment of Reader’s Advisory. This column is dedicated exclusively making you drop buckets of cash on delicious hard cover beauties (or, just as good, borrow from the public library — you won’t believe the range of books you can get your hands on these days).

This week we’re going to kick things off with a summer reading list of some of my favourite graphic novels. Self-deprecating characters, whether depressingly suburban or fighting an apocalypse tooth and nail; people against the odds are MY people. What odds, you might ask? Oh, y’know, finding that hot guitarist from that underground show the other night while fighting for your very existence amidst a deadly plague. Or trying to reconcile the idea of a private life (and your sex addiction) in a crushing city of millions. What makes these heroes human are their foibles, and we’d like nothing better than to see them get the girl/boy/scholarship in the end because, dammit, Enid should go to art school and grow the eff up like I wanted to. So anyway, if you’re heading off to the shops on Wednesday, you should definitely ask for any of these titles to help keep your habit at bay. You depraved little person, you.

Ball Peen Hammer
Adam Rapp (w), George O’Connor (i). First Second, 2009.

Read if you like: science fiction, teen fiction, survival drama.

Citizens kill, pillage and nurse one another in a city torn to shreds by an unstoppable plague. The only sense of order comes from being enlisted as a Dragger or Sacker – hired help to “dispose” of infected bodies. And you thought your job sucked. What sets this apart from most apocalyptic virus stories I’ve read is that obtaining the cure is hardly the focus. The characters are living their lives as normally as possible, going about daily routines (bleaching one’s spreading sores, foraging for food, going to rock concerts) and taking care of family (as defined by a few trustworthy individuals). Read the rest of this entry »

U is for The Ultimates

Posted by Comics On October - 26 - 2009

UltimatesbetterThe Alpha Review

By Andrew Uys

I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.

U is for The Ultimates Vol. 1 & 2
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Bryan Hitch
Marvel Comics, 2002

The Ultimates is the Avengers Redux.  When Marvel launched Ultimate Spider-Man ten years ago, they were seeking to modernize the hero, hoping to make it possible for new, younger readers to connect with the character.  And so, the Ultimate Universe was born.   Marvel quickly followed up their Spider-Man title with the Ultimate X-Men and the Ultimate Fantastic Four — each group redesigned to be more in tune with the 21st century, and not burdened with decades of continuity.  The Ultimates is no different.  Except, it’s mad brilliant.  It’s a team of super-powered heroes brought together by SHIELD to protect America’s interest in the burgeoning age of super-humans.  Ask yourself what would the American government, circa 2002, have done if it could deploy Captain America, Iron Man and Thor?  The answer is The Ultimates. Read the rest of this entry »

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